Thursday, September 20, 2012


The hardest thing about the way my brain works, is that I tend to see things others don't or can't. Case in point: 14 yrs ago, I suggested to my family that a savings vehicle to prepare for longterm care for the senior generation was critical. Much to my surprise, the family concurred and the fund was created. It was imperfect but it's now been tapped several times in the intervening span of time for that very purpose.

Back in the day, when I was young and arrogant, I used to say that whatever I knew was the answer to the question posed (I should probably clarify that that was how I used to talk when I was an undergrad preparing for examinations. I could say and do that kind of thing because I was a Sociology major, so I could infer and draw conclusions to my heart's content.)  Now that I'm older (and still arrogant, in case you were wondering), that's still my MO but these days I actually understand what it means. My gift, for want of a better word, is the ability to draw together disparate bits of information into a coherent whole and on the basis of that new whole, make decisions. Good ones. The trouble is, when others don't see what you do, you spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince them that you're right. Except for the level of professional success projected at the end of my MBA, I ain't been wrong yet, but this either means I'm due for another major miscalculation or that my process works.....but I may still be due for a major miscalculation. The question now is: where do I find an adviser who challenges my underlying assumptions and helps me ensure that I'm not doing the wrong thing?

When Spidey's 'Spidey-sense' tingled, who did he check with? Anybody? Nobody? Did he just rush off and do his thing? How much trouble did he get in to?

My Liesl-sense is tingling but there's more at stake than just my track record or my pride and there are serious unknowns/unmanageables in the equation, like other minds with other views. sigh. I weary myself. Why don't I just mind my own business and leave the rest alone? Eh? Why?

Yes, this is related to care giving. It's clear (to me, at any rate) that we've reached what's called a 'strategic inflection point' where things must change dramatically if any further success is to be had. Oh for an "Easy" button or six lottery numbers to make things a wee bit easier.

Here's a little reference material if you should be inclined to read about strategic inflection points:

Basket case

So here's what I'm thinking this morning: I'm thinking that Whoopi Goldberg, whom I respect a great deal, has an indomitable will. Here's why I say that. For years, Whoopi has had a fear of flying. No biggie, plenty of folk have that problem. As a performer, however, that could potentially be a serious problem. Think of all the London and Paris gigs she just couldn't take. For her local bookings, she would ride the bus. HER bus.  Apparently, she's had a great bus for years and has traveled from show to show in fabulous comfort. But she's always been landlocked. (At this point you're probably asking yourself, what Whoopi has to do with my mother and Alzheimer's Disease. Give me a moment, I'll get there. You might even have an "Ah ha" moment. X <=== fingers crossed.)

About 2 years ago though, Whoopi went through a fairly extensive process of trying to conquer that fear. She alone knew why she had decided that the time was right to break the back of that fear. Now, I'm thinking we all know: Sister Act on Broadway. This week, Whoopi's Sister Act is playing in Paris and so that's where she is.

Here's the story I've made up to explain the course of events: Whoopi had the idea, or the idea was put to her, to bring Sister Act to Broadway. At some point she realized that the thing might be sufficiently successful to need to do international shows and voilĂ , the need to conquer the fear of flying. For all I know, the one thing had nothing to do with the other, but I kinda like my story line.

Here's how this connects to AD: by doing what she most feared when there was no pressure, when there was no dire need to do that thing, she could do it on her terms. She could do it calmly. She could get to a place of peace with what she needed to do without the additional pressure of a time constraint. By the time she needed to do that which she had feared (flying), she no longer feared it. Translation: by having the dreaded conversation and putting things in place to deal with ugly reality before ugly reality hits, when ugly reality hits, there are no dreaded conversations needed. That which you most feared has long been exposed to the light, dealt with sanely and without the additional stress of immediate need. When the bell rings and it's "Go" time, you are ready and able to go. Will there be stress? Certainly. I've no doubt that Whoopi feels some stress when she flies, but she's not a basket case.

So will you be a weary dog hunkered down in a basket (Photobucket's idea of 'basket case' for some reason) or will you be a warrior, ready for the battles ahead? Your choice. You know my choice, and you know where I ended up.

Friday, September 14, 2012


What's in your genes, your DNA? Every family has a medical history. So too does every family have a family financial history - FFH. Both are important. We talk about the one, the other not so much.

My family, without going in to too much detail, has a financial history that is unhealthy and unhelpful. A friend and I recently had a conversation in which she said something that included the phrase "persistent material poverty" referring to the middle class Black family in the Caribbean and it stopped me in my tracks. It gave me pause because this is precisely the thing I have been struggling with for a decade now. We are well educated, a couple of PhDs, an ABD (all but dissertation), several Masters degrees, and more undergraduate degrees than we know what to do with and yet, persistent material poverty. Not poor, but no deep resources. Not poor, but not free to say, "Hey, what about Disney in Paris next summer?"

Persistent material poverty.

Say it a few times, and then having done that, take a look at your family. If it describes your family a little too well, maybe it's time to shake things up and do something about it?

At some point, you have to ask yourself whether you and your family are on an upward/forward financial trajectory. Standing still, treading water or holding the line are not enough. As costs grow (particularly for health and senior care), treading water becomes drowning. I don't know how else to describe it other than to say that when you stand still and everything else moves without you, you end up at the back of the pack.

Lest anyone accuse me of trying to keep up with the Joneses or the Kardashians or anyone else for that matter, it should be pointed out that my goal has nothing to do with anyone named 'Jones'. Unless of course, inflation, thy name is 'Jones'? That's the only 'Jones' any of us need try to keep up with. That alone can keep you very busy, very busy indeed.

So, take a moment to consider your family's financial history. Mine is not good but I'm working hard to try to drag us in new direction. Some are coming, some are not. Even now, I'm faced with a reality that pains me deeply: being the second generation to lose a house to bad planning and a refusal to communicate and work collaboratively. My great-grandparents' home was lost because among their EIGHT children, they could not figure out how to pay the land rates and taxes. My grandparents' home is likely to have to be  sold because my mother's generation and mine have been unable (I should say 'unwilling') to figure out the best way forward. (This is probably my grandpa's fault since he's made us joint heirs to it and we cannot agree, though I'm not entirely sure we've even tried to.) We have been unable to identify a route to a brighter, more prosperous future. I can't begin to say how deeply that pains and offends me because, having been down this road before in our previous generation we should know better.

It is said that when you know better, you do better. This is not always the case. SOMETIMES, when you know better you do better. You have to make the choice to do better. Please try to make that choice. It really is worth it.

Persistent material poverty.

There's no need for it. Know better. Do better. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Indelicate Truth


At the risk of being indelicate - what's new - I have a talk about another consequence of being ill-prepared.

I should be in Trinidad today. Yes, I know, I just got back 27 days ago, but there's a thing happening there today that I should really be attending. My relative, who also struggled with Alzheimer's Disease, has finally been granted release and peace. I should be there but I'm not. I can't afford to go. Between the cost of airfare and the cost of care for Mummy while I'm gone (~$1,000 USD a week), it's simply not in the cards.

I know I talk about this an awful lot, but hear me well: it's not just the everyday issues that become frustrating, maddening and fiscally frightening, it is that EVERYTHING becomes that to you. Any and everything can (and often does) create a fiscal cliff and sometimes, to avoid the cliff, we have to simply stop and do nothing even when the last thing we want to be doing is nothing. So today, instead of donning my black dress and standing with my young cousin at her mother's side. I'm here, in my pjs writing this to you.

Fourteen years ago next week, my grandmother passed from this world. Then, everyone was working and all was well with the world, financially speaking. Several of my relatives lived in the US but that was not an impediment to their being present at the final services for my grandmother. There was no question at that time, of whether people would come home, it was a question of when they would arrive. This time around, it's been 'whether'. How wrong is that? How wrong is it that a young woman should have to shoulder alone the final arrangements for her mother? This is the consequence of our poor planning. Everyone is on such shaky financial ground that there are no resources set aside for emergent issues.

Fourteen years ago, my family had a meeting at which I pointed out that we needed to set aside money for the next round of illness. I advised that we needed to establish a family mutual fund account to which the senior generation should contribute as the young ones were either in school or on the verge of returning to school at the time. The plan was to have a pool of resources that could fund care when next someone was ill. Well, the account was created but only two of the four who 'owned' it ever contributed to it with any regularity. Can't say I didn't try.

I have tried over the course of the last fourteen years to encourage (or berate, depending on your perspective) others to see what I see and do as I have recommended. To little avail. I've only succeeded with my mother's affairs because I'm responsible for those. The wider family has largely ignored me, (who am I kidding with this 'largely' nonsense?) and so this is where we end up: with a service in progress and half of us too impecunious to get there to offer moral or other support. How's that working for ya? It's clearly not working for me cuz I'm sitting here writing and mad, or hurt or something.

And still, we don't learn. I'm pretty sure that once today passes into history, we'll keep plodding on in the same insipid and asinine way because, for reasons I am yet to fathom, we will not learn. But hear this as well: continuing the same action will not magically yield a different result. We won't learn. Will you?